CNSC president should not report to the Minister of Natural Resources, according to IAEA guidance

Having the CNSC report through the Minister of Natural Resources who is charged with producing (and promoting) nuclear energy under the Nuclear Energy Act is not consistent with the IAEA’s guidance on “independence”.  


IAEA General Safety Guide No. GSG-12, Organization, Management and Staffing of the Regulatory Body for Safety says:

2.3  …the credibility of the regulatory body with the general public depends on whether the regulatory body is regarded as being independent from the organizations it regulates, as well as independent from other government agencies or industry groups that promote nuclear technologies.

The IAEA recommends that the CNSC’s independence from Parliament and government not be absolute:

2.6. Paragraph 2.8 of GSR Part 1 (Rev. 1) [2] states that:“To be effectively independent from undue influences on its decision making, the regulatory body: …Shall be free from any pressures associated with political circumstances or economic conditions, or pressures from government departments, authorized parties or other organizations”.  

2.7. The regulatory body should, however, be accountable to the government and to the general public with regard to effectively and efficiently fulfilling its mission to protect workers, the public and the environment…

More specifically, it is unacceptable that the CNSC’s funding requests come through the Minister of Natural Resources:

2.14. …Review and approval of the regulatory body’s budget should be performed only by governmental agencies that are effectively neutral in respect of the development, promotion or operation of facilities and conduct of activities. Such an approach provides additional assurance of the independence of the regulatory body 

Under the Nuclear Energy Act, the Minister of Natural Resources is Canada’s promoter of nuclear technologies:

Powers of Minister 10(1) The Minister may

(a) undertake or cause to be undertaken research and investigations with respect to nuclear energy;

(b) with the approval of the Governor in Council, utilize, cause to be utilized and prepare for the utilization of nuclear energy;

(c) with the approval of the Governor in Council, lease or, by purchase, requisition or expropriation, acquire or cause to be acquired nuclear substances and any mines, deposits or claims of nuclear substances and patent rights or certificates of supplementary protection issued under the Patent Act relating to nuclear energy and any works or property for production or preparation for production of, or for research or investigations with respect to, nuclear energy



The President of Canada’s nuclear regulatory body (CNSC) reports to the Minister of Natural Resources.  The Nuclear Safety and Control Act says

12(4) …the President shall make such reports to the Minister as the Minister may require concerning the general administration and management of the affairs of the Commission…

Hence, the Minister in charge of nuclear energy, including federal (AECL) properties for production and research of nuclear energy, is also in charge of the regulatory body that is supposed to protect workers, the public and the environment. 

 
This creates a lack of independence of the regulatory body. 

 
The Nuclear Safety and Control Act does allow for the President of the CNSC to report to a minister other than the Minister of Natural Resources.  From section 2, Definitions:

Minister means the Minister of Natural Resources or such member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada as the Governor in Council may designate as the Minister for the purposes of this Act.


A quick and cheap fix to CNSC’s lack of independence would be to designate the Minister of Environment and Climate Change as the “the Minister for the purposes of this Act”. 

 
That being said, both the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Nuclear Energy Act are more than 23 years old and have never been reviewed by Parliament.  Such a review is long overdue.

International Atomic Energy Agency still says “entombment” is not an acceptable decommissioning strategy

November 2, 2020

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Canada’s “captured” nuclear regulator, had hoped that the latest updated guidance from IAEA would allow entombment of old reactors as a decommissioning strategy.

Here is CNSC in 2017, “dispositioning” critical comments on the proposed entombment of old (and still highly radioactive) nuclear reactors at Rolphton, Ontario and Pinawa, Manitoba:

“Yes, the document referenced, IAEA GSR 6, indicates that
entombment is not recognized internationally, in principle,
as a preferred decommissioning strategy (entombment may
be considered a solution only under exceptional
circumstances, such as following a severe accident). The
IAEA is currently working on a document to provide
guidance with respect to their position on entombment
in situ decommissioning the applicability of entombment in
the context of decommissioning and in particular, the
regulatory requirements and expectations for applying
entombment as a decommissioning option strategy. There is
no scheduled date for the publication of this document;
however, CNSC staff will keep apprised of its development
to inform this EA and licensing review process.
Irrespective of the IAEA guidance document, under the
CNSC’s regulatory framework, applicants are responsible
for selecting and justifying their proposed decommissioning
strategy.”

That quotation is from this document: https://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/documents/p80124/118863E.pdf
Page 9, top right.

The CNSC must have been disappointed when the new IAEA guidance document was published in 2018 and it STILL says that entombment is not acceptable as a decommissioning strategy.

The new IAEA document is

Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Plants, Research Reactors and Other Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities ~ Specific Safety Guide No. SSG-47, Vienna, 2018

The relevant text is section 5.17 on page 32 and it reads as follows:

Entombment, in which all or part of the facility is encased in a structurally long lived material, should not be considered an acceptable strategy for planned decommissioning. It might be considered as a last option for managing facilities that have been damaged in an accident, if other options are not possible owing to high exposures of workers or technical difficulties.

The IAEA explicitly recommended that Canada align its decommissioning strategy with this standard, during a peer review mission in September 2019. See a summary of IAEA recommendations to Canada here.

Undeterred, the CNSC is attempting to make entombment acceptable in its own “RegDocs”, pseudo regulations that rely heavily on nuclear industry created CSA standards, but that is another story, that is covered elsewhere. See Ole Hendrickson’s recent Op Ed in the Hill Times and the recent letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that requests urgent action to address nuclear safety gaps in Canada.

Updated list of First Nations and Municipal Resolutions against the CNL’s current plans for nuclear waste dumps

Assembly of First Nations resolution is here: http://www.ccnr.org/AFN_Resolution_2017.pdf

Example resolution in English:

Montreal Municipal Council’s unanimous resolution (press release and full resolution): https://cmm.qc.ca/communiques/depotoir-nucleaire-a-chalk-river-la-cmm-soppose-au-projet/

Critical comments from former AECL officials and scientists on CNL Disposal projects

Fifteen former AECL officials and scientists have submitted critical comments on the CNL nuclear waste disposal projects. These people point out many serious flaws in the proposals and the environmental impact statements.

These comments were all submitted to CNSC/CEAA. Links are to the CEAA pages for the environmental assessments for the disposal projects
Most of these former AECL employees identify themselves as “residents of Deep River” or “residents of Pinawa” and do not refer to their employment at AECL in their submissions (but see Michael Stephens’ second NSDF submission).   All are retired, but their former job titles or responsibilities – found through internet searching – are shown in parentheses, below.

Comments from AECL officials and scientists on the Near Surface Disposal Facility Project:

Michael Stephens (Manager, Business Operations, Liability Management Unit; Manager, Strategic Planning, Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program, AECL)

Michael Stephens (2nd submission)

William Turner (Quality Assurance Specialist and Environmental Assessment Coordinator/Strategic Planner, AECL)

William Turner (2nd submission)

William Turner (3rd submission)

William Turner (4th submission)

William Turner (5th submission)

John Hilborn (Nuclear physicist, AECL)

J.R. Walker (Director, Safety Engineering & Licensing; Champion, NLLP Protocol, AECL)

J.R. Walker (2nd submission)

J.R. Walker (3rd submission)

Peter Baumgartner, Dennis Bilinsky, Edward T. Kozak, Tjalle T. Vandergraaf, Grant Koroll, Jude McMurry, Alfred G. Wikjord (all retired AECL Whiteshell Laboratories employees)

Pravin Shah (Manager, Site Landlord Services, AECL)

Greg Csullog (Manager, Waste Identification Program, AECL)

Greg Csullog (2nd submission)

David J. Winfield (30 years’ experience, research reactors and nuclear facilities, AECL)

Comments from AECL officials and scientists on the Nuclear Power Demonstration Closure Project:

William Turner  (Quality Assurance Specialist and Environmental Assessment Coordinator/Strategic Planner, AECL)

William Turner (2nd submission)

William Turner (3rd submission)

Michael Stephens (Manager, Business Operations, Liability Management Unit; Manager, Strategic Planning, Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program, AECL)

J.R. Walker (Director, Safety Engineering & Licensing; Champion, NLLP Protocol, AECL)

Comments from AECL officials and scientists on the In Situ Decommissioning of the Whiteshell  Reactor #1 Project

William Turner  (Quality Assurance Specialist and Environmental Assessment Coordinator/Strategic Planner, AECL)

William Turner (2nd submission)

William Turner (3rd submission)

Michael Stephens (Manager, Business Operations, Liability Management Unit; Manager, Strategic Planning, Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program, AECL)

Michael Stephens (2nd submission)

Peter Baumgartner (AECL Whiteshell Laboratories employee)

Peter Baumgartner (2nd submission)

Peter Baumgartner, Dennis Bilinsky, Edward T. Kozak, Tjalle T. Vandergraaf, Grant Koroll, Jude McMurry, Alfred G. Wikjord (all retired AECL Whiteshell Laboratories employees)

Peter Baumgartner, Dennis Bilinsky, Edward T. Kozak, Tjalle T. Vandergraaf, Grant Koroll, Jude McMurry, Alfred G. Wikjord  (2ndsubmission)

Leonard Simpson (Director of Reactor Safety Research, AECL)

J.R. Walker (Director, Safety Engineering & Licensing; Champion, NLLP Protocol, AECL)